Category Archives: Arts and Culture

“Victoria” Episode 1 Recap: Meet Your New Queen

Jenna Coleman as Queen Victoria Photo credit: Masterpiece/ITV

“From now on, I wish to be called Victoria.”

That line, elegantly and confidently delivered by Jenna Coleman’s newly crowned 18-year-old monarch, was one of my favorite moments of the premiere episode of “Victoria,” the new miniseries that debuted on PBS Sunday. From the moment a solemn, black armband-wearing courtier arrives to deliver the news that young Alexandrina Victoria is the successor to the throne it is clear that little has been done to prepare the teen to be the sovereign of what was then the world’s largest empire.

Raised in virtual isolation by her mother, the German-speaking Duchess of Kent, Victoria ascended to the throne without ever truly interacting with commoners or even learning the basics of sex and procreation. (The latter becomes extremely apparent as Victoria badly navigates a scandal that nearly derails the monarchy.) But the best parts of Sunday’s premiere was getting to watch the young Queen decidedly take charge of the monarchy while effectively (and often brattishly) thwarting the many adults who tried in those early days to manipulate her. We see Victoria literally laugh once and future Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel out of the room when he tries to work with her before building his government. She crumples up lists of advisors carefully prepared by her Lady in Waiting. And, in the first of many mother-daughter conflicts, she orders her mother to stop speaking to her in German (and quickly drops her first name of Alexandrina.)

“Victoria” wouldn’t be a proper British costume drama without the following: a ballroom scene in which Victoria flirted with the “wrong” kinds of men, intrigue downstairs in the servants quarters, a maid who made a VERY BAD mistake but was instantly forgiven, and mommy issues galore. Fortunately for us all, we got plenty of all of those things and the costumes and music were exceptional throughout.

One of the men Victoria inappropriately flirts with is her trusted advisor and friend Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell.)  Melbourne, who was Prime Minister at the beginning of Victoria’s reign, also served as her private tutor, instructing her on the ins and outs of government and diplomacy. While historians say that Melbourne and Victoria’s relationship was more of a father-daughter relationship than a romantic one, there are lots of longing glances and poignant conversations between the two in this series. (And really, isn’t that what we’d expect to see of two characters played by Jenna Coleman and Rufus Sewell?)

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A look back at my favorite posts of 2014

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I’ve noticed that many of my favorite writers have been compiling year in review blog posts over the past couple of days, so I thought that I’d join in on the fun. Reading many of these posts, I was immediately struck by how many writers and journalists said that 2014 was the year that things just clicked for them and that they achieved all sorts of things that they hadn’t thought were possible on this day in 2013.

That was certainly the case for me. I had spent a good chunk of 2013 temping for one of Long Island’s largest temp agencies while also freelancing, blogging for free and wondering if I should look at other career options. And while the first quarter of 2014 was fairly miserable, things just seemed to click sometime in May. In no particular order, here are my favorite articles of 2014.

Anti-Rape Clothes Fail to Address Culture Behind India’s Crisis (NBC Asian America): Amna Nawaz and I looked at the recent trend among young Indian entrepreneurs of creating clothing and other accessories that, they say, will help women ward off rapists. “I applaud the ingenuity [of these inventors]. People should do what they need to do to feel safe,” Indian journalist Sonia Faleiro told me. “But a pair of jeans does not reflect the experience of 70 percent of the population.”

The Ballad of Yoko Ono, on Her 45th Wedding Anniversary (The Toast): This March would have marked John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s 45th wedding anniversary. The Associated Press’s coverage of the event was… interesting.

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A Kidnapping and Then Unquestionable Greed: Anurag Kashyap’s ‘Ugly’ Reviewed

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According to the official brochure for the New York Indian Film Festival, Anurag Kashyap’s Ugly is “a terrible tale of corruption, indifference and systemic violence [which] starts when the 10-year-old daughter of an aspiring actor disappears.”

Given that description, I didn’t expect to laugh several times during the NYIFF’s opening night screening of the film earlier this month. But as the viewer watches the aftermath of the child’s sudden abduction, there are severely deeply cynical, darkly hilarious scenes that show Anurag Kashyap’s talents in full form.

The film’s central event is the kidnapping of 10-year-old Kali, which occurs on a Saturday when she is in her divorced, shiftless father Rahul’s care. While it appears on the surface that Rahul loves his daughter and wants her to be happy, it’s also clear that he is completely unable to put Kali’s needs before his own, a circumstance that unintentionally contributed to the tragedy. (Kali disappears when Rahul leaves her waiting inside his car while he discusses business with his best friend and casting director Chaitanya, in the hopes of finally getting his big break.)

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Review: A Tragically Brief Marriage Leads to Heartbreaking Choices in ‘Mrs. Scooter’

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There are two stars of the first scene of Mrs. Scooter, the sublime and emotionally turbulent new film by Shiladitya Moulik that screened at the New York Indian Film Festival last Friday. The first is the shiny new scooter that’s been recently acquired by Bhushan, a hard-working young clerk. The second is Aashima, Bhushan’s dazzlingly young wife, who happened to come into his life the same day his treasured scooter did.

With his marriage, it seems like things are finally looking up for Bhushan, a man with no family to speak of except for his doting, gossipy landlady Sheila. Viewing these early scenes, a viewer with no knowledge of the film’s plot would be forgiven for thinking that Mrs. Scooter would be about the struggles (yet ultimate triumphs) of India’s growing middle class.

Alas, that’s not what this film about.

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Debut Filmmakers Win Big at the New York Indian Film Festival Awards

Geetanjali Thapa (right) won the Best Actress award at the New York Indian Film Festival on Saturday for her performance in Liar's Dice.
Geetanjali Thapa (right) won the Best Actress award at the New York Indian Film Festival on Saturday for her performance in Liar’s Dice.

A pair of young filmmakers took home two of the top prizes at the New York Indian Film Festival Awards on Saturday, a feat that was especially impressive considering both films were feature-length debuts.

Geethu Mohandas was awarded the NYIFF’s Best Film award for Liar’s Dice, which tells the story of a young rural mother whose tragically changes after her husband goes missing in Delhi. Lead actress Geethanjali Thapa, who plays the main character Kamala, was also honored with the festival’s Best Actress award. Reviewing the film for The Aerogram, Hannah Harris Green movingly wrote that “the Himalayas in this story are not majestic but forbidding and unreadable. Kamla stares blankly into them as she waits — for a bus, or a jeep, or some sign that her struggle will be worth it.”

Another film that garnered widespread acclaim at the festival was Nagraj Manjule’s directoral debut Fandry, which also earned him the festival’s Best Director award. The Marathi film explores the persistent problem of caste-based discrimination through an intra-caste romance starring Somnath Avghade and Rajshree Kharat. Watch the film’s trailer here.

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Watch the Trailer for ‘Small Delights,’ a Muslim American Coming of Age Story

A still from the film Small Delights.
A still from the film Small Delights.

In her new short film Small Delights director Hena Ashraf tells the story of Aziza, a teenage hijabi from New York City who is trying to figure out her place in the world. Music is the one constant in Aziza’s life, as you can see in the trailer below, she spends most of her time either listening to records, shopping for CDs or scandalously sneaking off to concerts.

Fun fact: Aziza’s mother in the film is played by Reena Shah of My Pet Dragon and Sita Sings the Blues fame.

Readers in the New York City area can catch a screening of Small Delights tonight at 7 p.m. as part of the Queens World Film Festival in Long Island City. It will be followed by a screening of the documentary Migrations of Islam, which is directed by Swarnavel Eswaran Pillai. For tickets please visit this site.